HOME |  JOIN |  CULT MOVIES | COMPETITIONS | ADVERTISE |  CONTACT US |  ABOUT US
 
 
Newest Reviews
Birth of the Dragon
Revenge of the Pink Panther
Thelma
Stratton
February
Taking of Beverly Hills, The
Marjorie Prime
Hotel Salvation
Mangler, The
Shiraz
Mercy, The
Kickboxer: Retaliation
Molly Maguires, The
Party, The
Dante's Peak
Housemaid, The
Vendetta
Brimstone
Boys in the Trees
Once Were Warriors
Red Planet Mars
Blade Runner 2049
Devil's Express
Belko Experiment, The
Flashback
War of the Arrows
One-Trick Pony
Cloverfield Paradox, The
Beach Rats
In Between
   
 
Newest Articles
They're All Messed Up: Night of the Living Dead vs Land of the Dead
The House, Black Magic and an Oily Maniac: 3 from 70s Weird Asia
80s Meet Cute: Something Wild vs Into the Night
Interview with The Unseen Director Gary Sinyor
Wrong Forgotten: Is Troll 2 Still a Thing?
Apocalypse 80s UK: Threads and When the Wind Blows
Movie Flop to Triumphant TV Revival: Twin Peaks and The League of Gentlemen
Driving Force: The Golden Age of American Car Chases
Madness in his Method: Jim Carrey and Andy Kaufman
Music, Love and Flowers: Monterey Pop on Blu-ray
   
 
  Anatomy of a Murder Courting ControversyBuy this film here.
Year: 1959
Director: Otto Preminger
Stars: James Stewart, Lee Remick, Ben Gazzara, Arthur O'Connell, Eve Arden, Kathryn Grant, George C. Scott, Orson Bean, Russ Smith, Murray Hamilton, Brooks West, Ken Lynch, John Qualen, Howard McNear, Alexander Campbell, Joseph N. Welch, Jimmy Conlin
Genre: Drama
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: When underworked lawyer Paul Biegler (James Stewart) returns from one of his many fishing trips, he finds he has a note waiting for him from one Laura Manion (Lee Remick): a new case for him to work on, perhaps. He lives with his best friend Parnell (Arthur O'Connell), but whereas the old fellow had once been a talented man of law himself, alcoholism has drained his spirit, much to Biegler's unspoken dismay. He would like nothing better for Parnell to assist him, and on this Manion case he could have the opportunity, as there's quite the buzz about it...

Director Otto Preminger got it into his head that he should be a trailblazer, a pioneer of stretching the boundaries of cinema, and one of the ways he did so was in the field of language. In one of his earlier films, romantic comedy The Moon is Blue, he had introduced the word "virgin" into American movies, but with Anatomy of a Murder he went quite some way further, using the fact he was depicting a court case to introduce such words as "rape", "panties", "sperm" and "sexual climax" into the vocabulary of his film, all excused because they were employed in a legal situation. At the time, what was even more shocking was that James Stewart was saying them.

Even though Stewart had broadened his range throughout the fifties with some tough roles, especially in Westerns, he still hadn't shaken off his persona of Mr Smith Goes to Washington, an overgrown boy scout at worst, a dignified man of decency at best, and certainly his public image was never controversial as he played the conservative, professional family man. But actually he had a subversive streak in his choices, not content to settle back on his laurels and keen to push himself in those films, so Anatomy of a Murder, which was pretty much a courtroom drama of the sort audiences were watching every week on the Perry Mason show, snuck in under the radar.

Except that here the lawyer played by Stewart was facing a far more ambiguous case, and many took against the film because it appeared he was trying to acquit a criminal whose innocence was far from definite. Which was what made it interesting, of course, and as the defendant, an army lieutenant named Frederick Manion was played by Ben Gazzara, an actor whose sly menace could be applied to some seriously shady characters, you're not sure you should be wanting him to get away with whatever he's on trial for. That being the murder of a bartender who, the curiously cheerful and flirty Laura claims, raped her the night Manion did the deed: can a plea of temporary insanity let him off?

Also muddying the moral waters was George C. Scott on the prosecutor's side, another brooding presence who is so cast that we do not wish him to succeed when he's up against the folksy wisdom of Biegler; really the viewer was placed in a very difficult position and a take on the law which was far from benevolent. In a skilled item of manipulation, the judge was played by Joseph N. Welch who had memorably destroyed far right senator Joseph McCarthy on television, so we cannot in all conscience feel he is on the wrong side, yet on the other hand we see a man whose guilt is evident playing the jury thanks to a terrific lawyer who is frankly in it for the money rather than any sense of justice: if Biegler wanted that, you'd assume he'd at least deliberately try to lose the case, and he assuredly does not. In its faithfulness to the book it was based on (a true story) the plot dragged for far too long, and at times it was like a filmed piece of theatre complete with audience in the courtroom laughing and gasping on cue, but there was plenty to intrigue in a deceptively scathing look at the legal system. Music by Duke Ellington (who cameos).
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

This review has been viewed 2169 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

 
Review Comments (2)


Untitled 1

Login
  Username:
 
  Password:
 
   
 
Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.
   

Latest Poll
Which film has the best theme song?
Spectre
The Ups and Downs of a Handyman
   
 
   

Recent Visitors
The Elix
Graeme Clark
Darren Jones
Enoch Sneed
Paul Smith
Jason Cook
  Andrew Irvine
Ian Phillips
   

 

Last Updated: